If you are planning to visit la Salar de Uyuni (or Uyuni salt flat), you probably want to know when is the best time to visit it. You would like to know when it rains, in order to avoid poor weather conditions and enjoy sunny holidays. After some research, I was able to gather all the answers to the questions your are asking yourself before traveling to Bolivia. So, does it rain in Salar de Uyuni?

Salar de Uyuni receives almost no rain the entire year. Indeed, it hardly ever rains in Salar de Uyuni. We count 5 inches of rain per year in Salar de Uyuni, and the majority of those 5 inches are collected between December and April. Then, because of the soil’s nature, the water is trapped. It cannot evaporate, and it cannot get in the ground, which means that the salt flat becomes a big swamp. This phenomenon happens between February and March, after the short rain season. That’s also the period where you can enjoy incredible reflections on the ground.

people standing near SUV in a salt flat
Look at the reflection of the SUV and the people. Uyuni is basically a human-scaled mirror. Picture from scott dukette.

When is the best time to visit Salar de Uyuni?

Now that you know it rains between December and April, does it mean that you should avoid visiting Uyuni during that period of time? Not exactly. We are going to discuss about it. So, when is the best time to visit Salar de Uyuni?

There is no best time to visit Uyuni because it is different for the whole year. Uyuni almost has two different faces. During the wet season, it’s a huge mirror, and during the dry season, it is an immense salt flat. It is definitely worth visiting Uyuni twice. Once during the dry season, and a second time during the wet season. If you have the chance to do that, you will enjoy the two faces of Uyuni.

What temperatures can I expect in Uyuni?

Temperatures are also another factor that could influence your choices. If you are sensitive to cold, you will probably want to avoid the coldest months. Indeed, since Salar de Uyuni is high-up in altitude, it’s pretty cold between June and August, averaging temperatures under 5 degrees. Thanks to data from Climate-Data.org, we have precise temperature readings. So, please find the temperatures in Uyuni ordered by month in the following table.

 JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
Avg. Temperature (°C)14.113.41412.39.83.44.248.710.312.214.3
Min. Temperature (°C)6.66.3740.9-5.8-4.9-5.3-0.513.56.5
Max. Temperature (°C)21.620.621.120.618.712.713.413.41819.620.922.1
Precipitation / Rainfall (mm)4739170000002118
This data is from Climate-Data.org.

Basically, the average temperature never exceeds fifteen degrees, and never falls under zero. However, the maximum temperatures can exceed twenty degrees and fall under zero, showing that averages are made of extremes. If you visit Uyuni during cold months, make sure to bring some warm clothes. Also, if you visit Uyuni during the warmest months, don’t feel too confident, and bring a jacket with you.

How many days do you need in Salar de Uyuni?

If you read the article closely, you now know when it rains, whether you want to see the rain or not, and when you should visit Uyuni, according to the seasons and the temperatures. There are two more questions to answer to plan the trip. How do you get to Salar de Uyuni? (We will answer that one right after) and, more importantly, how many days do you need in Salar de Uyuni?

Three or four days is enough to visit Salar de Uyuni. This is the classic length of the local tours. Being part of one is a wise choice. Indeed, Salar de Uyuni is a tourist place, and it’s sometimes hard to know where to head when there are lots of tourists. Here, thanks to the guides, you do not have to worry about anything: they will take you to the best places. Before booking, make sure that the guide speaks a language you understand.

How to get to Salar de Uyuni?

If you choose to book a tour, the guide will give you all the information needed. You will probably leave from either Uyuni or Tupiza, which are the two closest cities. However, if you are doing the trip on your own, you probably want to know the itinerary. The issue is that there are no roads on the salt flat. It is, as its name indicates, a large white ground without any road.

satellite view of salt flat
A satellite view of Uyuni Salt Flat to help you imagine how huge it is. In fact, it’s so huge that you can see it from space!
satellite photo of planet earth showing south america and salar de uyuni in the middle
If you look closely in Bolivia, you can see Salar de Uyuni. I did my best to put it in the middle of the picture, so if you cannot find it, focus on the middle of the picture, and you will find it. By the way, if you want more information about how was this place created, you can check this article about How was Salar de Uyuni created.

Is Uyuni safe?

I hope that I sparked your interest in this incredible place and that you now plan to visit it. I also wish that you possess all the information to know when and how to visit this place. If there is a topic I did not cover, make sure to leave a comment, or to contact me via e-mail. I will get back to you as quickly as possible. I wanted to add one more section to this article to boost your confidence to visit Uyuni. Indeed, when we visit South America, we can feel unsafe about it. Let’s face it, criminality is high on this continent. And when you plan on visiting Bolivia, one of the least-developed countries of South America, it is totally normal to ask yourself questions about safety. So, is Uyuni safe?

Uyuni is relatively safe compared to other Bolivian and South American cities. You should still take the classic precautions when you walk in the streets, such as avoiding walking at night-time, limiting your possessions (accessories, jewelry, watches,…), and being overall alert. If you plan on driving an SUV on the salt flat, you should be particularly cautious about it! The soil can be slippy and you do not feel the speed! Indeed, since there are no signs and no roads, you can drive very fast without feeling the speed. Do not do that. An accident could be deadly, and it is not easy calling rescue in such a secluded place. So, there are some safety issues inside the city, but there could also be some during your salt flat trip. Make sure to stay safe during the whole trip.

people sat on top of an SUV in salar de uyuni
Picture from Lucas Metz.

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